Daft Punk Homework Alive And Well

Homework is the debut studio album by the French electronic music duo Daft Punk, released on 20 January 1997 by Virgin Records and Soma Quality Recordings. The duo produced the tracks without plans to release an album. After working on projects that were intended to be separate singles over five months, they considered the material good enough for an album.

Homework's success brought worldwide attention to French house music. Homework charted in 14 different countries, peaking at number 3 on the French Albums Chart, number 150 on the United States Billboard 200 and at number 8 on the UK Albums Chart. By February 2001, the album had sold more than two million copies worldwide and received several gold and platinum certifications. Overall, Homework received positive critical response. The album features singles that had significant impact in French house and global dance music scenes, including the U.S. BillboardHot Dance/Club Play number-one singles "Da Funk" and "Around the World", the latter of which reached number 61 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Background and recording[edit]

In 1993, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo presented a demo of their electronic music to DJ Stuart Macmillan at a rave at EuroDisney.[2] The contents of the cassette were released on the single "The New Wave" on 11 April 1994, by Soma Quality Recordings, a Scottish techno and house label co-founded in 1991 by MacMillan's band Slam.[3] Daft Punk returned to the studio in May 1995 to record "Da Funk",[4] which was released later that year alongside "Rollin' & Scratchin'" under the Soma label.[5]

The increasing popularity of Daft Punk's singles led to a bidding war among record labels, resulting in the duo's signing to Virgin Records in 1996.[7][8] Their departure was noted by Richard Brown of Soma, who affirmed that "we were obviously sad to lose them to Virgin but they had the chance to go big, which they wanted, and it's not very often that a band has that chance after two singles. We're happy for them."[2] Virgin re-released "Da Funk" with the B-side "Musique" in 1996, a year before releasing Homework. Bangalter later stated that the B-side "was never intended to be on the album, and in fact, 'Da Funk' as a single has sold more units than Homework, so more people own it anyways [sic] than they would if it had been on the album. It is basically used to make the single a double-feature."[9] The album was mixed and recorded in Daft Punk's studio, Daft House in Paris. It was mastered by Nilesh Patel at the London studio The Exchange.[10]

Bangalter stated that "to be free, we had to be in control. To be in control, we had to finance what we were doing ourselves. The main idea was to be free."[11] Daft Punk discussed their method with Spike Jonze, director of the "Da Funk" music video. He noted that "they were doing everything based on how they wanted to do it. As opposed to, 'oh we got signed to this record company, we gotta use their plan.' They wanted to make sure they never had to do anything that would make them feel bummed on making music."[12] Although Virgin Records holds exclusive distribution rights over Daft Punk's material, the duo still owns their master recordings through their Daft Trax label.[7][13]

Composition[edit]

Daft Punk produced the tracks included in Homework without a plan to release an album. Bangalter stated, "It was supposed to be just a load of singles. But we did so many tracks over a period of five months that we realized that we had a good album."[14] The duo set the order of the tracks to cover the four sides of a two-disc vinyl LP.[9] De Homem-Christo remarked, "There was no intended theme because all the tracks were recorded before we arranged the sequence of the album. The idea was to make the songs better by arranging them the way we did; to make it more even as an album."[9] The name Homework, Bangalter explained, relates to "the fact that we made the record at home, very cheaply, very quickly, and spontaneously, trying to do cool stuff."[15]

"Alive"

"Alive", first single released from Homework, is the final version recorded of "The New Wave",[16] which was the first song made by Daft Punk.[2]



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"Daftendirekt" is an excerpt of a live performance recorded in Ghent, Belgium;[10] it served as the introduction to Daft Punk's live shows and was used to begin the album.[9] The performance took place at the first I Love Techno, an event co-produced by Fuse and On the Rox on 10 November 1995.[18]Janet Jackson sampled "Daftendirekt" on her song "So Much Betta", which was included in her tenth studio album, Discipline, in 2008.[19]Homework's following track, "WDPK 83.7 FM", is a tribute to FM radio in the US.[11] The next song, "Revolution 909" is a reflection on the French government's stance on dance music.[9][20]

"Revolution 909" is followed by "Da Funk", which carries elements of funk and acid music.[2] According to Andrew Asch of the Boca Raton News, the song's composition "relies on a bouncy funk guitar to communicate its message of dumb fun."[21] Bangalter expressed that "Da Funk"'s theme involved the introduction of a simple, unusual element that becomes acceptable and moving over time.[22] Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine complimented the song as "unrelenting",[23] and Bob Gajarsky of Westnet called it "a beautiful meeting of Chic (circa "Good Times", sans vocals) and the 90s form of electronica."[24] The song appeared on the soundtrack for the 1997 film The Saint and was placed at number 18 on Pitchfork's "Top 200 Tracks of the 1990s" list.[25] "Phœnix" combines elements of gospel music and house music.[9] The duo considered "Fresh" to be breezy and light with a comical structure.[26] Ian Mathers of Stylus Magazine criticized the song, stating that it "doesn't feel like the beach just because of the lapping waves heard in the background."[27]

The single "Around the World" carries influences of Gershon Kingsley's hit "Popcorn".[2] Its music video was directed by the Academy Award-winning French filmmaker Michel Gondry, who compared the track's bassline to that of "Good Times" by Chic.[28] Chris Power of BBC Music named it "one of the decade's catchiest singles". He stated that it was "a perfect example of Daft Punk's sound at its most accessible: a post-disco boogie bassline, a minimalist sprinkling of synthetic keyboard melody and a single, naggingly insistent hook."[17] Ian Mathers of Stylus Magazine commented that "there is no way you'd want to have a Homework without 'Around The World'."[27] The track "Teachers" is a tribute to several of Daft Punk's house music influences, including future collaborators Romanthony, DJ Sneak and Todd Edwards.[29] The song "Oh Yeah" features DJ Deelat and DJ Crabbe. "Indo Silver Club" features a sample of "Hot Shot" by Karen Young.[10] Prior to its inclusion on Homework, "Indo Silver Club" was released as a single on the Soma Quality Recordings label in two parts.[30] The single lacked an artist credit in the packaging[30] and was thought to have been created by the nonexistent producers Indo Silver Club.[31] The final track, "Funk Ad", is a reversed clip of "Da Funk".[9]

Singles[edit]

Homework features singles that had significant impact in the French house[32] and global dance music scenes.[7] The first single from the album, "Alive", was included as a B-side on the single "The New Wave", which was released in April 1994. The album's second single was "Da Funk"; it was initially released in 1995 by Soma and was re-released by Virgin Records in 1996. It became the duo's first number-one single on the BillboardHot Dance/Club Play chart.[33] The song reached number seven on British[34] and French charts.[35] The third single, "Around the World", was a critical and commercial success, becoming the second number-one single on the Billboard Hot Dance/Club Play chart,[33] as well as reaching number 11 in Australia,[36] number five in the United Kingdom[37] and number 61 on the Billboard Hot 100.[38] In October 2011, NME placed "Around the World" at number 21 on its list of "150 Best Tracks of the Past 15 Years".[39] The album's fourth single was "Burnin'"; it was released in September 1997 and peaked at number 30 in the UK.[37] The final single from Homework was "Revolution 909". It was released in February 1998 and reached number 47 in the UK[37] and number 12 on the Billboard Hot Dance/Club Play chart.[38]

In 1999, the duo released a video collection featuring music videos of tracks and singles from the album under the name of D.A.F.T.: A Story About Dogs, Androids, Firemen and Tomatoes. Although its title derives from the appearances of dogs ("Da Funk" and "Fresh"), androids ("Around the World"), firemen ("Burnin'"), and tomatoes ("Revolution 909") in the videos, a cohesive plot does not connect its episodes.[40]

Critical reception[edit]

Homework's success brought worldwide attention to French progressive house music,[51] and drew attention to French house music.[32] According to The Village Voice, the album revived house music and departed from the Euro dance formula.[52] In the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, critic Alex Rayner stated that Homework tied the established club styles to the "burgeoning eclecticism" of big beat. He contended that it served as a proof that "there was more to dance music than pills and keyboard presets."[53]Clash described Homework as an entry point of accessibility for a "burgeoning movement on the cusp of splitting the mainstream seam."[54] In 2009, Brian Linder of IGN described Homework as the duo's third-best album. He catalogued as a "groundbreaking achievement" the way they used their unique skills to craft the house, techno, acid and punk music styles into the record.[55] Hua Hsu of eMusic agreed, applauding Homework for how it captured a "feeling of discovery and exploration" as a result of "years of careful study of the finest house, techno, electro and hip-hop records."[56] David Browne, writing in Entertainment Weekly, stated that the duo knew how to use "their playful, hip-hopping ambient techno" to craft the album. He named Homework the "ideal disco for androids".[43] Sean Cooper of AllMusic called the album "an almost certain classic" and "essential".[41]

Chris Power of BBC Music compared Homework's "less-is-more" approach to compression's use as "a sonic tribute" to the FMradio stations that "fed Daft Punk's youthful obsessions."[17] Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine wrote that "while a few tracks are more daft than deft," more recent groundbreakers like The Avalanches could never exist without "Da Funk".[23] Ian Mathers of Stylus Magazine noted that "there's a core of unimpeachably classic work on Homework, hidden among the merely good, and when you've got such a classic debut hidden in the outlines of the epic slouch of their debut, it's hard not to get frustrated."[27]Rolling Stone awarded the album three stars out of five, commenting that "the duo's essential, career-defining insight is that the problem with disco the first time around was not that it was stupid but that it was not stupid enough."[49]Rolling Stone ranked Homework at the top on their list of "The 30 Greatest EDM Albums of All Time" while affirming that Daft Punk's debut "is pure synapse-tweaking brilliance."[57] According to Scott Woods of The Village Voice, "Daft Punk [tore] the lid off the [creative] sewer" with the release of Homework.[52] Ryan Schreiber of Pitchfork awarded it 7.6 out of 10. He stated that "Homework provides sixteen whole tracks of modern-day boom box bass n' drum and unlike your science project, it doesn't require a lot of intricate calculations to figure out how it works." In his view, "It sounds like an Atari 2600 on a killing spree."[47] By contrast, Robert Christgau of The Village Voice cited "Da Funk" as a "choice cut",[58] indicating "a good song on an album that isn't worth your time or money".[59] Darren Gawle from Drop-D Magazine also gave a negative review, stating that "Homework is the work of a couple of DJs who sound amateurish at best."[60]

Commercial performance[edit]

Daft Punk wanted the majority of pressings to be on vinyl, so only 50,000 albums were initially printed in Vinyl format. After its release, overwhelming sales of Homework caused distributors to accelerate production to satisfy demand. The album was distributed in 35 countries worldwide,[7] peaking at number 150 on the Billboard 200.[61]Homework first charted on the Australian Albums Chart on 27 April 1997; it remained there for eight weeks and peaked at number 37.[62] In France, the album reached number three and stayed on the chart for 82 weeks. In 1999, it reached Gold status in France for selling more than 100,000 copies.[63] On 11 July 2001, the album was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America, indicating sales of 500,000 copies in the US.[64][65] By October 1997, the album had sold 220,000 copies worldwide,[66] although Billboard reported that, according to Virgin Records, two million copies had been sold by February 2001.[67] By September 2007, 605,000 copies had been sold in the United States.[68]

Track listing[edit]

All music composed by Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo.

1."Daftendirekt"2:44
2."WDPK 83.7 FM"0:28
3."Revolution 909"5:26
4."Da Funk"5:28
5."Phœnix"4:55
6."Fresh"4:03
7."Around the World"7:04
8."Rollin' & Scratchin'"7:26
9."Teachers"2:52
10."High Fidelity"6:00
11."Rock'n Roll"7:32
12."Oh Yeah"2:00
13."Burnin'"6:53
14."Indo Silver Club"4:32
15."Alive"5:15
16."Funk Ad"0:51
Total length:73:53

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^Dolan, Jon; Matos, Michaelangelo (2012-08-02). "The 30 Greatest EDM Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2014-10-08. 
  2. ^ abcdefCollin, Matthew (August 1997). "Do You Think You Can Hide From Stardom?". Mixmag. Retrieved on 6 March 2007.
  3. ^The New Wave (liner notes). Daft Punk. Soma Quality Recordings. 5 024856 620149.
  4. ^"Daft Punk History & Facts"Archived 6 January 2012 at the Wayback Machine.. The Daft Punk Site. Retrieved on 1 May 2012.
  5. ^James (2003), p. 273.
  6. ^Moayeri, Lily (9 June 2007). "Punk As They Wanna Be". Yahoo. Archived from the original on 9 June 2007. Retrieved 11 January 2012. 
  7. ^ abcdRFI Music – Biography – Daft PunkRadio France Internationale. Retrieved on 3 March 2007.
  8. ^Woholeski, Peter (May 2001). "One More Time: Four Years After Its Filter Filled Splashdown, Daft Punk Retirns With Discovery – Complete with House Beats, Disco Sweeps and, Yes, Plenty of Vocoders"Archived 22 August 2001 at the Wayback Machine.. DJ Times. Retrieved on 5 May 2007.
  9. ^ abcdefgWarner, Jennifer. "Interview with Daft Punk"Archived 10 July 2014 at the Wayback Machine.. p. 3. DMA. About.com. Retrieved on 30 March 2007.
  10. ^ abcHomework (liner notes). Daft Punk. Virgin Records, a division of EMI Group. 42609. 1997.
  11. ^ abDi Perna, Alan (April 2001). "We Are The Robots", Pulse!. pp. 65–69.
  12. ^Jonze, Spike (2003). The Work of Director Spike Jonze companion book. Palm Pictures. Retrieved on 4 May 2012.
  13. ^James (2003), p. 267.
  14. ^James (2003), p. 269.
  15. ^Nickson, Chris (June 1997). "Daft Punk: Parlez-vous da funk?". CMJ New Music Monthly (46). CMJ Network. p. 10. ISSN 1074-6978. Retrieved 31 January 2013. 
  16. ^The New Wave (lines notes). Daft Punk. Soma Quality Recordings. 5 024856 620149.
  17. ^ abcPower, Chris (5 January 2010). "Review of Daft Punk – Homework". BBC Music. British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 1 May 2012. 
  18. ^History - I Love Techno (lineup 1995). ilovetechno.be. Retrieved on 3 May 2014.
  19. ^Discipline (Booklet). Janet Jackson. Island Records, a division of The Island Def Jam Music Group. 2008.
  20. ^Warner, Jennifer. "Interview with Daft Punk"Archived 8 January 2012 at the Wayback Machine.. p. 2. DMA. About.com. Retrieved on 10 February 2012.
  21. ^Asch, Andrew (18 December 1997). "Daft Punk smashes charts with simplicity". Boca Raton News. Retrieved on 1 May 2012.
  22. ^Daft Punk audio commentary for "Da Funk" music video, The Work of Director Spike Jonze (2003).
  23. ^ abCinquemani, Sal (2 November 2002). "Daft Punk: Homework". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 1 May 2012. 
  24. ^Gajarsky, Bob (28 April 1997). "Daft Punk, Homework"Archived 10 January 2013 at the Wayback Machine.. Westnet. Retrieved on 1 May 2012.
  25. ^Ryan Dombal (3 September 2009). "Staff Lists: The Top 200 Tracks of the 1990s: 20-01". Pitchfork. Retrieved on 10 February 2012.
  26. ^D.A.F.T.: A Story About Dogs, Androids, Firemen and Tomatoes. Virgin Records. 1999.
  27. ^ abcMathers, Ian (9 May 2005). "Daft Punk: Homework – Playing God". Stylus Magazine. Retrieved 1 May 2012. 
  28. ^Gondry, Michel (2003). The Work of Director Michel Gondry companion book. Palm Pictures. Retrieved on 4 May 2012.
  29. ^Gill, Chris (1 May 2001). ROBOPOP. Remix Magazine. Archived from the original on 11 February 2012. Retrieved 18 February 2012.
  30. ^ abIndo Silver Club (liner notes). Daft Punk. Soma Quality Recordings. SOMA 035.
  31. ^Silcott, Mireille (3 April 1997). "Personality punks". Montreal Mirror. Archived from the original on 6 June 2011. Retrieved on 3 August 2011.
  32. ^ abJames (2003). p. 292.
  33. ^ ab"Daft Punk Album & Song Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved 29 April 2012. 
  34. ^"Archive Chart"UK Singles Chart. Official Charts Company. Retrieved 15 January 2012.
  35. ^"Lescharts.com – Daft Punk – Da Funk" (in French). Les classement single. Hung Medien. Retrieved 15 January 2012.
  36. ^"Discography Daft Punk". Australian-Charts.com. Retrieved 10 February 2012.
  37. ^ abc"DAFT PUNK". Official Charts Company. Retrieved on 30 April 2012
  38. ^ ab"Daft Punk Album & Song Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved on 1 May 2012.
  39. ^Tim Chester. 150 Best Tracks Of The Past 15 Years – #21 – Daft Punk – Around the WorldNME. Retrieved 11 February 2012.
  40. ^Deming, Mark. "Daft Punk: D.A.F.T. – A Story About Dogs, Androids, Firemen, and Tomatoes (2000)". Allmovie. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 24 December 2012. 
  41. ^ abCooper, Sean. "Homework – Daft Punk". AllMusic. Retrieved 1 May 2012. 
  42. ^Larkin, Colin (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-85712-595-8. 
  43. ^ abBrowne, David (23 May 1997). "Homework". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 1 May 2012. 
  44. ^Bennun, David (24 January 1997). "Hip to the trip". The Guardian. 
  45. ^"Daft Punk: Homework (Virgin)". Muzik (21): 58. February 1997. 
  46. ^Dalton, Stephen (18 January 1997). "Daft Punk – Homework". NME. Archived from the original on 11 October 2000. Retrieved 26 June 2016. 
  47. ^ abSchreiber, Ryan. "Daft Punk: Homework". Pitchfork. Archived from the original on 16 March 2008. Retrieved 16 June 2013. 
  48. ^"Daft Punk: Homework". Q (127): 120. April 1997. 
  49. ^ abWolk, Douglas (2004). "Daft Punk". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian. The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. Simon & Schuster. p. 207. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
We've got much more control than money. You can't get everything. We live in a society where money is what people want, so they can't get the control. We chose. Control is freedom. People say we're control freaks, but control is controlling your destiny without controlling other people.
—Thomas Bangalter, in regards to the duo's creative control and freedom[6]

There are many who were quite disappointed by Daft Punk's 2005 release Human After All. I was not one of them. While, certainly, it was not as good as either 1997's Homework or 2001's Discovery, I hardly think it's fair to hold those comparisons against the group. Their first two albums were instant classics. Human After All wasn't quite as instantly likeable, but it was better than most gave it credit for. I strongly suspect it'll be one of those albums that gets "rediscovered" in a few years' time.

But regardless of my opinion, the damage was done, and a group which had up to then held an unblemished record was sullied by the taint of a subpar release. All three of their studio albums have attempted something different. Discovery was probably the single best example of French disco house from the late '90s, the same scene that gave us Cassius and the Paris Is Burning compilations, and still lingers in our memory as the direct inspiration for latter-day nuevo disco outfits like Justice and the Ed Banger crew. Discovery zigged when most people were probably expecting the duo to zag, eschewing hardcore house beats for a lighter retro-pop sound that both inspired and surpassed almost all of the many subsequent attempts at cashing in on the '70s and '80s sounds which followed in its wake.

Human After All seemed like something of an ironic commentary on the high esteem with which the group had been held up to that moment: it was an attempt to loosen up, create something a bit more spontaneous (it was recorded in the span of about six weeks, an eyeblink for these notorious perfectionists). It seemed sort of an attempt at creating a garage album -- and I mean garage in terms of both rock and house music. It had the slightly shambolic, off-the-cuff nature of garage rock, as well as the stripped-down speed and nervous energy of New York-style garage house. It was something different, at least.

But the tepid response to Human After All did little to dim their appeal. When they returned to live performance for the first time in almost a decade, rapturous crowds greeted the duo -- Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter -- across the globe. (I've got a friend who managed to catch their performance at Coachella in 2006 -- he confirms that it was simply remarkable.) Expectations had been high: despite the general dearth of quality live acts in electronic music, Daft Punk had always been acclaimed as one of the genre's best, alongside festival stalwarts like Underworld and the Chemical Brothers. The fact that they had refused to tour for almost a decade only added to their mystique. A single anomalous live release, Live 1997, was released a few months following Discovery, in lieu of any touring in support of that album. It was pretty damn awesome, and represented almost the exact opposite of Discovery in both form and function: loose, hard and fast, it was entirely improvised and irresistibly propulsive. Discovery was an example of tight, concise pop songwriting in an electronic, sample-based context. Alive 1997 took Homework's tracks as the starting point for massive, borderline psychedelic acid-drenched departures. (If you don't already own a copy, good luck finding Alive 1997, however -- Daft Punk deleted the release from their catalog after only two months.)

Rare is the band that can craft a live album good enough to stand shoulder to shoulder alongside its studio releases. Rarer still is the band whose live albums can cross the divide between being merely good and damn near essential. Recorded in Paris on 14 June of this year, Live 2007 represents the group at the absolute peak of their powers. All three albums are represented evenly. The result is a stylistically contiguous melange of what could have been, in other hands, a pretty disparate set of tracks. The best example of this comes at the end of the set, when the duo successfully mix elements of "Rock and Roll", "Superheroes" and "Human After All" (from their first, second and third albums, respectively) into one six-minute jam that seems neither confused nor precipitous. Rather, the density of the sound contributes to the music's feverish, climactic intensity.

Repetition is not necessarily a sin in the world of dance music. Daft Punk are careful to use repetition to their advantage, creating exotic mixtures of distorted sound that play against the hypnotic background of an unrelenting house beat. Instead of merely "playing" their hits in a more recognizable fashion, the duo introduce elements from their songs into a more general, elastic mixture that enables elements from multiple songs to coexist in a single flow, and single elements to be elaborated and distorted to engrossing effect. For example, the duo begin one section with a sample of the beat from Busta Rhymes' "Touch It", itself built off of a sample from Daft Punk's "Technologic". They mix the basic beat with the guitar bit from "Robot Rock" for a while, before dropping down into just the bare thudding bassline from "Touch It", from which the group builds back up into the full version of "Technologic". They use the sampled voice from "Technologic" as a bridge, slowing it down and speeding it up to build tension, before finally dropping the vocal refrain from "Around the World" into the mix just long enough for the audience to go crazy, and then segueing into the sinister "Television Rules the Nation" (which then morphs into a mashup of "Crescendolls" and "Too Long"). The show is filled with inspired juxtapositions like that.

And yet, despite the mixed-up nature of the show, the duo's best individual tracks are still allowed to shine on their own. The majestic "Alive" emerges out of an intense mix of "Brainwasher" and "Rollin' and Scratchin'", sneaking up on the listener before they're aware of what's happening. "One More Time" is presented very much intact, and, just as on Discovery, segues into "Aerodynamic" -- only, the vocal elements from "One More Time" don't go away, merging with the latter song in order to create something stranger than either. I was also impressed with their transformation of "Harder Better Faster Stronger" into a straight-up acid track, achieved with the aid of "Burnin'" -- that's an effective enough mix that they could release it as a single.

I could go on, but I won't. Just about every moment of the record is filled with something fun. It's quite an amazing achievement -- somehow managing to synthesize the best bits from throughout their entire career into something that becomes far more than merely the sum of its parts. If you were unhappy with the lack of old-school house on Discovery, or the lack of hooks on Human After All, you should find plenty to like here in the way they've essentially remixed their back catalog to good effect. This is everything good about Daft Punk, boiled to its essence with all the dross discarded. I almost can't imagine what the show itself must have been like, because the mixing and mashing is at times so complex and subtle that I can't imagine getting everything with just one exposure. This is a compulsively listenable album, through and through, and one of the best live albums I've ever heard. Put this on your shelf next to Live at Leeds and 101 -- yeah, it's that good.

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